Rating: 10 out of 10.

‘Clariel’ is written by Garth Nix and was published in 2014, being number 4 in the bestselling Old Kingdom Series. It surrounds the world of the Old Kingdom, focusing on a young girl who is coming of age: Clariel. She is the daughter of a highly respected Goldsmith family in the city Belisaere, which is situated north east of the Old Kingdom surrounded by the Sea of Saere. It is clear from the onset, that Clariel has one main ambition in life: to become a Borderer and live in the Great Forest, not having to interact with people and living life the way she wants to. However, her mother will not allow it. A nice touch to the opening of the book is a map from a birds-eye view of Belisaere and The Old Kingdom, to help readers imagine the location in their mind as well as beautiful artwork on the front cover.

The background of the family is intriguing, we discover that they moved from an external town to Belisaere, much to Clariel’s disapproval and later on in the story we find out why, this foreshadowing was effective in keeping my attention. The quality of description regarding how the town was laid out was fantastic, and the amount of world building that Nix incorporates with his work gives the books he writes a sense of realism – that this could be real! It paints a beautiful image in the readers mind about how the world interacts with the characters, how it impacts the main character without losing the impact of an “…immersive sensory experience…” (Pereira, 2019).

Having previously read the Abhorsen Trilogy when it originally came out, I knew that Clariel was an extension to the series, and I was thoroughly looking forward to reading the book. I wasn’t disappointed as while reading Clariel, the charm of the Old Kingdom came flooding back after years of having read Abhorsen. The nuances in the description of emotions, the environment and even the language used was familiar to me, reminding me of why I loved Nix’s previous works. The language used is suitable for readers who have a good reading level, as the dialogue used ‘discourse’ (Angel, 2016) in order to deliver information which worked wonderfully, regarding informing the reader about the background of the plot and the history of the Abhorsen. Clariel engages in diatribe, which is an effective technique in writing (Angel, 2016), to express her needs and wants and I can see that in the beginning she has tunnel vision as to what she wants in her life. It did make ther character come across as a withdrawn, ‘whingy’ character, but reminding myself of who Clariel is: she’s a 16 year old girl brought up as an only child, so this fit in with her character well.

Some readers may agree with me when I say that Clariel is a relatable character (GoodReads) she reminded me of how I was at her age: with dreams and aspirations being quashed by a narcissistic parent, where you just want something different for yourself than what is being pushed on you by social expectations. I can imagine that many would find this a difficult read should they identify with these points, but I would suggest to not ignore the way that Clariel improved her situation. I don’t condone her actions but she was able to come back from an impending darkness that threatened to overwhelm her, as ultimately she is a strong person. It reminded me of how much we all need to work together and trust each other – if Clariel hadn’t have intervened, she needn’t have taken Free Magic inside of her, corrupting her and deepening the distance between her and the Charter.

The symbolism of the Charter being the light in the world and Free Magic being the darkness, is a really fluid notion that translated expertly. The fact that Clariel recognises that the Charter magic was pure, good and safe compared to Free Magic. No matter how seductive the Free Magic may be, she fought the darkness while she managed to save the King after her parents had been dispatched and then she felt relief once her Free Magic powers were bound by Charter magic. This was a brilliant character arc, and a realistic development for Nix to insert into the book. In addition it shows us that we can match this, no matter what darkness we may come into contact with.

I would imagine this book to be appropriate for all ages. I read the Abhorsen Series as a child, and so I would think if a child of 10-12 years has a high reading level they could manage well with this book and have a good level of comprehension, as well as adults. There are words and phrases within the book that are more suited to an experienced reader, but the magical ideology is so seductive it draws you in for more, I can see all ages enjoying this read. It is a fantasy themed book, with a fresh world that is 100% unique that no other author or creator has thought of. Nix even draws on uniqueness even with the text, the whole Abhorsen Series were published in a font that is not a traditional style, but looks more like a readable handwriting script font. This helped me to be transported straight into Clariel’s world and in combination with his tell-tale writing style, it didn’t take long before I was at the mercy of fantastic story-telling.

“Clariel examined her feelings once again, and found them unchanged. What she desperately wanted to do was get out of the city and, since the Borderes wouldn’t let her join them, purchase a hunting lodge or forester’s hut outside Estwael to go hunting and fishing and just live in the quiet, cool, shaded world of the Forest valleys and the heather-clad hills that she loved.” (p. 15. ch. 1.)

Recommendation

I would definitely recommend this book to fantasy-lovers who appreciate new worlds and different ideas. I would like to introduce this book to teens as the quality of writing is so high, it might inspire them to aim high in their lives. It is not just a book to transport readers to another world, there are morals within the story that we all can learn from and model certain traits to better ourselves. Bringing in characters from the previous series helped to create such a strong sense of nostalgia that I created a personal connection with this book and I will never forget it.

Clairel Summary

Theme: This is a fantasy novel which discusses magic and independence of a young teenage girl. Suitable for ages 10+, the plot is aimed at young adults.

Description: I found that there are LGBT references to the main character potentially being asexual, as well as very mild sexual references that I would describe PG and moderate descriptions of gore and violenle which I would describe as a 12A rating.

Narration: Nix wrote this book in a 3rd person narrative which helps the reader to see the thoughts of other people as well as being able to ‘see’ what was happening through most of the characters eyes. It doesn’t stray away from Clariel at all, the story follows her all the way through, apart from the Prologue which sets the scene in Belisaere docks and gives the reader much needed background information and history of the city.

The Author

Garth Nix

Garth Nix has been a full-time writer since 2001, but has also worked as a literary agent, marketing consultant, book editor, book publicist, book sales representative, bookseller, and as a part-time soldier in the Australian Army Reserve.

Garth’s books include the Old Kingdom fantasy series, comprising Sabriel, Lirael; Abhorsen; Clariel and Goldenhand; SF novels Shade’s Children and A Confusion of Princes; and a Regency romance with magic, Newt’s Emerald. His novels for children include The Ragwitch; the six books of The Seventh Tower sequence; The Keys to the Kingdom series and others. He has co-written several books with Sean Williams, including the Troubletwisters series; Spirit Animals Book Three: Blood Ties; Have Sword, Will Travel; and the forthcoming sequel Let Sleeping Dragons Lie. A contributor to many anthologies and magazines, Garth’s selected short fiction has been collected in Across the Wall and To Hold the Bridge.

More than five million copies of his books have been sold around the world, they have appeared on the bestseller lists of The New York Times, Publishers Weekly and USA Today and his work has been translated into 42 languages. His most recent book is Frogkisser! now being developed as a film by Twentieth Century Fox/Blue Sky Animation.

You can find him on Twitter and Facebook to keep updated on what he’s currently working on!

References

Angel, D. (2016) The Four Types of Conversations: Debate, Dialogue, Discourse, and Diatribe

Care.com Resources. (2015) ‘How to Use Movie Ratings for Kids’. – https://www.care.com/c/stories/4797/how-to-use-movie-ratings-for-kids/

Garth Nix Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/garthnix

Garth Nix Twitter – https://twitter.com/garthnix

Garth Nix Website – http://www.garthnix.com/about/

GoodReads – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20662728-clariel?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=4ZPfeax2M0&rank=1

Nix, G. (2014) Clariel. Chapter One: Welcome to the City. ISBN: 978-1-4714-0385-9.

Pereira, G. (2019) The Psychology of World Building. The Writer.
https://www.writermag.com/improve-your-writing/fiction/world-building/3/